High-altitude dining in London
At Hutong, the focus is firmly on the spectacular view, enhanced by clever lighting to keep it visible even after dark.
Thanks to London's rising skyline, high-altitude dining is the city's latest trend. In the last few months three new restaurants – Oblix, Aqua Shard and Hutong – have opened in The Shard, the 72-storey skyscraper near London Bridge, providing impressive new ways to experience sky-high dining.
Take the non-stop lift to the 32nd floor of the tallest building in Western Europe and the views across London from the triple height, panoramic windows will stop you in your tracks. (Luckily there is a small army of receptionists waiting to usher awestruck diners in the right direction.)
To the left is Oblix – a restaurant and bar lounge by Rainer Becker and Arjan Waney, founders of trendy Japanese restaurants Zuma and Roka. The glass-wrapped dining room is a step in a new direction for them, with a New York-rotisserie-and-grill-inspired menu. Diners can share platters of slow-roasted meat joints, wood-fired pizzas and New England clam chowder served from an open kitchen, or retreat to the live music lounge for bar snacks accompanied by late night tunes.
The other side of the 32nd floor (as well as the 31st and 33rd floor) belongs to David Yeo's Hong Kong restaurant group Aqua. Clever interior design means you can see a spectacular view of the winding River Thames and seemingly miniature versions of the London Eye, Houses of Parliament, Canary Wharf and Big Ben from anywhere you sit in the restaurant – including the toilet. Aqua Shard occupies two separate wings linked in the middle by a dramatic atrium bar with floor-to-ceiling windows over three floors. Open all day for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, expect classic British cooking with interesting twists such as Dover sole served with a cider sauce or Scottish mackerel with tomato sorbet.
Above Aqua Shard is Hutong, a Chinese restaurant focused on cuisine from the north, namely the Shandong Province, rather than usual Cantonese style found in London. Critics say Hutong is the piece de resistance of the trio of restaurants, thanks not only to the food – try the perfectly moist Peking duck roasted in their dedicated duck-roasting kitchen, served in homemade pancakes – but also to the slick decor. Beautiful hand-carved panels, dark wood, vintage tea canisters and red lanterns create a soft and elegant atmosphere. The focus is firmly on the spectacular view, enhanced by clever lighting to keep it visible even after dark. Sit back, sample signature dishes such as chilled spiced razor clams and crispy de-boned lamb ribs and enjoy the sunset.
Malika Dalamal is the London Localite for BBC Travel